But it is Holofcener’s particular gift that she can draw richness from a small slice of life so readily susceptible to caricature. In another kind of movie than Walking and Talking, Anne Heche’s character would be a self-absorbed, self-satisfied Bridezilla; instead, like most women, she’s both ambivalent and excited about marriage. In another kind of movie than Lovely and Amazing, Brenda Blethyn’s adoption of a ten-year-old African-American child played by Raven Goodwin would be played broadly, an opportunity for a Big Lesson for the white woman in the center of the frame. Instead, Goodwin’s character is the most memorable and well-rounded in the entire film. In Friends With Money, Frances McDormand’s angry, perimenopausal Jane is a prototype of the kind of “unlikable” female protagonist that Emily Nussbaum described, earlier this year, as the new hot thing on television, with her hummingbird theory. (It’s no accident that Holofcener also directed episodes of both Parks and Recreation and Enlightened, which Nussbaum names as exemplifying the hummingbird genre.)
The depth Holofcener gives her characters might seem such a small thing, a requirement of any good director. But it’s no news that most characters in film today, particularly in sweeping Hollywood dramas but also in the kind of stylized indie Anderson or Jonze produce, complicated inner universes are not a priority. In part, that’s because the industry is crass. It’s also because making a movie about the way people actually feel is really, really hard. It’s easy to blow something up and get people to come see it. It’s a lot harder to build people who look like ones you actually know, and make a good movie out of it. Holofcener knows how to do that; let’s get to a place where people are going to give her more money and time and respect to get it done. In sum, again: run, don’t walk, to Enough Said this weekend.